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Subject: [Review] Proxima Obertura rss

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Tom Vasel
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Can one mechanic ruin a game? I think the answer is yes if game already is lackluster to begin with. Proxima Obertura (Impuls Comercial XXI, 2007 – Oriol Comas & Jep Ferret) seemed like an interesting game, with nice artwork and a colorful backdrop. The idea of opening stores on a crowded street is one that appeals to me, and I was eager to try it out – especially after reading the rules.

But while there were some interesting mechanics, the game was simply too luck driven to be any fun at all. Every game that I’ve played has been determined solely on luck – the negotiation, location, and trading factors mean nothing compared to it. Each turn, one player is randomly given cards – a ridiculous mechanic that absolutely destroys any value that the game has and causes me to give it a low recommendation.

A board is placed on the table showing a street with ten slots on each side for stores to be open. One hundred and twenty-five cards are shuffled, composed of five suits (domestic appliances – blue; food – pink; household goods – purple; personal accessories – yellow; and leisure – green). Each card has a value from “1” to “5” and shows one of five different types within the category. Each player takes five business drive counters in their color – two that are marked “x1”, two that are marked “x2”, and one that is marked “x3”. Eight cards from the deck are dealt to each player, and then four “shoplifter” cards are shuffled into the deck. The deck is placed next to the board, with four cards turned face up. The last person in a shop takes the first turn, and play proceeds clockwise around the table.

On a players turn, they may ask for a card from two different types. Other players may place as many of these cards face up in front of them, and then the trading player may take one of the offered cards, offering one in exchange. If the offering player agrees, then both players trade the cards. Instead of trading, a player can simply take one of the four face-up cards, replacing it with the top card from the deck.

The player may then open a shop if possible. To do this, they need four cards that are all the same color, but each a different type. The player may “open” the shop at any open space on either side of the board but may not place it adjacent to a shop of the same color, or even directly or diagonally across the street from the same color. The opening player picks one of their business drive counters and places it on the store.

After this, the player may add a card to a shop that they have already opened in a previous turn. This card must be the type not yet used in that shop. Finally, the player MUST roll two dice. One card is awarded to each player whose color is rolled (if a blank side or a color not in the game is rolled – no cards are given). Finally, the player draws three cards, ending their turn.

If a shoplifter card is ever revealed, then the player who revealed it draws another card. Each card that is revealed causes players with a certain amount of cards (more than 12 for the first shoplifter, ten for the second, and eight for succeeding shoplifters) must discard down to that amount. When the deck runs out, it is reshuffled and reused with only two shoplifter cards shuffled in. At the end of the last person’s turn, the four face-up cards are discarded, and four more take their places.

The game continues until fifteen shops have been opened. At that point, players total their points. Each shop is worth the value of the cards in it times the multiplier of the business drive token. Each player scores extra bonuses for having shops side by side or of the same color (two shops give ten points; three shops give twenty points, and four shops give fifty points). Players also score points for the value of the cards in their hand divided by two. The player with the most points is the winner!

The rules for three players is the same, except the board is smaller, and the game ends after twelve shops are open. The rules for five players are the same, except that players only receive four business drive counters.

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game is a bright, cheery affair – from the colorful cards, to the cartoonish artwork, and I must say that I enjoy the positive flavor that comes out. The business drive tokens are large tokens that stand up in bases on the top of each store, and the symbols on the cards fit the theme well. A board is included to show how many stores of each color have been opened, but I found it fairly unnecessary. The dice and tokens are nice wooden pieces, and the long board makes a good centerfold for the whole affair. Everything fits inside a smallish box, with more bright colors. I especially like that the shoplifter cards showed how many cards a player had to discard down to. Everything about the game is thematic – a point in its favor.

2.) Rules: The four-page rulebook is very colorful and shows a lot of illustrations and examples. I found it mostly satisfactory, although they didn’t give a lot of restrictions on trading, and a group may have a problem with how liberally they may interpret the rules. (Can you make future trades? Can you ask for specific cards?) The game is pretty easy to teach, since a player’s actions are fairly laid out, and it seems to work for most ages.

3.) Trading: The trading phase is the most appealing part of the game, as players have to weigh what types of cards they want. Should they keep high valued cards because of their point worth? Or should they rather instead try to collect cards from a different color, to create shops. One’s starting hand often dictates how a player will trade, but the random cards drawn each turn also have a hand in this.

4.) Strategy: Other than the trading, the choices in the game don’t really give one a lot of options. You can place your highest multiplier on a large store, only to build a bigger one and smack your head for using it too soon. Most people don’t build five stores, so playing an “x1” should really only be used at the end. Also, players can attempt to get bonuses, but only really dense opponents will allow this to happen. Sure, you’ll get two stores in a row, maybe three if you’re lucky; but if you get four, it’s because your opponent fell asleep. The color restrictions sound like they can make maneuvering more possible, but it’s not as interesting as it seems.

5.) Luck: There is too much luck in the game. First, the card draws are ridiculously unfair – a player can simply draw good cards and refuse to trade with others. Even worse, and terribly inexcusable, are the die rolls. Who came up with the idea that rolling dice and giving cards to a random player was a good idea? I played one game where a player NEVER got these extra cards, and lost as a result. This has to be one of the worst mechanics in a game – ever. Also, the fact that the starting player doesn’t change gives them such an absurd advantage in drawing cards that I don’t know why the rules don’t address it. I like luck, but this game reeks of it – and not in a good way.

6.) Fun Factor: I found no fun in the game at all, because of the luck factor mentioned above. Proxima Obertura really dragged on for me and wasn’t enjoyable because most of it was guesswork and hoping you drew good cards. I could play L-C-R and get it over with quicker.

I often praise games as being the “best of the year”, but Proxima Obertura has the unfortunate problem of falling into the opposite category – one of the worst games I’ve played in 2007. The idea of starting stores and trading good with one another is an interesting one, and I was eager to see it expanded, but the luck just floods out any fun and puts Proxima Obertura on my “never play again” list.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games”
www.thedicetower.com
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Greg Schloesser
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TomVasel wrote:

I often praise games as being the “best of the year”, but Proxima Obertura has the unfortunate problem of falling into the opposite category – one of the worst games I’ve played in 2007. The idea of starting stores and trading good with one another is an interesting one, and I was eager to see it expanded, but the luck just floods out any fun and puts Proxima Obertura on my “never play again” list.




Wow! Talk about different viewpoints. I've played Proxima Obertura 3 times now and enjoy the game. I find the luck in all but the most extreme cases to be manageable -- and I've been on the short-end of the luck scale!

Not only is this NOT one of the worst games of 2007, it is actually a fine family game that I believe most fans of European-style games will enjoy.

My full review is currently on the Boardgame News site:

http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comment...

 
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